Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.
When Sir Robin Blythe is assigned to a new civil service role, little does he know it’s as liaison to the secret world of magic. There’s clearly been a mistake, and exasperated Edwin Courcey will have to take care of it. He can simply wipe Robin’s memory and find a more suitable replacement for the man who has gone missing. But the people responsible for his predecessor’s demise won’t let a simple lack of knowledge stop them, they are looking for something and they think Robin knows where it is.
The position of Assistant in the Office of Special Domestic Affairs and Complaints, Robin discovered, was a bewildering mixture of intelligence analysis, divination, and acting as a glorified messenger boy.
A Marvellous Light is a fun and queer, magical Edwardian romp. Edwin and Robin are unlikely allies; Edwin’s reserved, some might say frosty, manner is the complete opposite of Robin’s friendly aristocratic diplomacy. Edwin comes from a magical family but barely has any power of his own. The magic in this universe is cast using precise hand movements, and Edwin uses string to assist him, like a cat’s cradle.
As Edwin and Robin try to find out what exactly was killed for, and where it might be, the two become closer, from reluctant colleagues to friends to more. It doesn’t take them too long to find out they have the same inclinations towards men. In a time where homosexuality is illegal, they have their subtle ways of knowing. Whilst they could get into a lot of trouble for their relationship, this never felt like it was the focal point. It’s more warm and fuzzy than that. Maybe the magical community is just a bit more understanding than the general population.
Books are at least somewhat less likely to hurl insults at one. It is one of their major appeals.
I haven’t read much set in the Edwardian era, it’s on the edge of modernity. There are cars, but they’re a bit of a novelty and not really considered when magicians are setting up their wards. There are nice period touches like the William Morris wallpaper being trendy. The women in the story are overlooked in their roles, but that ends up what giving them their edge. They are still mothers, widows, secretaries in the eyes of the men who run the world.
My feelings towards sex scenes are similar that to fight scenes; fine if it furthers the plot or relationships but I tend to skim when they go on too long. I felt the balance most mostly OK here but there did seem a pointless sex scene towards the end when everything was wrapping up. I guess if you approach this as a steamy romance then you know what you’re getting, but it might be a bit of a surprise to those thinking they’re picking up a regular historical fantasy.
Robin had nothing at all against the country, but could never shake the impression that it would rather everyone buggered off to town and let it administer itself back into wilderness.
I loved how the magic was handled and the mystery was intriguing all the way through. Edwin and Robin are kind of an adorable couple too, both with their family hang-ups but deep down good eggs.
Tor have handily supplied some AO3 tags:
- overthinking under-powered spiteful librarian/genial jock with surprising layers
- UST (unresolved sexual tension)
- VRST (very resolved sexual tension)
- fantasy of very bad manners
- Houses That Love You
- bound by blood
- bound by sexy magical restraints
- gratuitous library porn
- homicidal hedge maze
- sleeves rolled up forearms
- Messing About In Boats
A Marvellous Light is published by Tor and will be available in the UK from 9th December 2021 in hardback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.
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